MMO-Champion - Seeing the Forest for the Talent Trees
Diablo 3 - Announcement - Simplified Skill Tooltips

Seeing the Forest for the Talent Trees
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on our crazy, exciting, and scary talent overhaul, for which we are enormously appreciative. For real and for true. We *want* your feedback on the new talents. That is why we are presenting so much detail so early. While we will continue to iterate on talent specifics, your feedback is an important part of that process. Don’t abstain because you’re convinced that things will change without you. Your input is one of our most important tools for improving the game.

We have seen a few consistent responses from players concerned or dismissive about the model, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain the philosophy behind some of our decisions, to provide a better framework upon which you can continue giving us feedback.

1. "I have fewer choices."
This is the big one, and the truth is it is ultimately correct. You will have fewer choices. But you will have more choices that *matter*. One of the important philosophies of game design is that interesting choices are fun. The word ‘interesting’ is key. Choosing between a talent that grants 10% damage and one that grants 5% damage, all else being equal, isn't interesting (unless perhaps you’re a superstar role-player). Choosing between a talent that grants you 5% haste or 5% crit might be interesting, but more than likely there is still a right answer (and like most of us, you'll probably just ask someone else what the answer is.) Choosing between a talent that grants you a root or a snare can be interesting. Which does more damage? Hard to say. Which is better? It depends on the situation.

This is why we don't have a clear damage, tanking, and healing talent choice every tier. In the case of the old trees, choosing the talent you want from among the talents that don’t interest you isn’t an interesting decision -- it's a multiple choice test, and an easy one at that. Are you Ret? You probably want the damage option. But what if the Ret player had to choose from three healing talents and couldn't sacrifice healing for damage? Now it gets interesting. Worst case scenario is the player just picks one at random because he refuses to heal. However, he has the ability. Maybe he'll use it in some situation. Meanwhile, other players will be happy that they can benefit more from the hybrid nature of the paladin class without having to give up damage to do so.

2. "There weren't cookie cutter builds."
You're wrong. Next!

To be fair, we did manage to engineer most of the Cataclysm talent trees to include a few legitimate choices. These typically occur when you need to spend enough points to get to the next tier of a tree to get the good stuff. Many specs had 1-4 points to spend wherever they want. That's a huge victory compared to pre-Cataclysm talent trees, but ultimately nothing to really brag about.

It is possible of course to strike a blow for individuality and use a non-cookie cutter build. Ninety-nine percent of the time, these builds are just going to be less effective. The remaining percent of the time, they will eventually become the new cookie-cutter. When players talk about their love of options, I think what they are really saying is they are in love with the idea of having dozens of interesting talents. We just don't think that will ever happen.

Look, we tried the talent tree model for seven years. We think it’s fundamentally flawed and unfixable. We know some of you have faith in us that someday we’ll eventually replace all of the boring +5% crit talents with interesting talents and give you 80 talent points that you can spend wherever, and that the game will still remain relatively balanced and fun. We greatly appreciate your faith, but we fear it is misplaced. It’s not a matter of coming up with enough fun mechanics, which is challenging but ultimately doable. The problem is the extreme number of combinations. When you have such a gigantic matrix, the chances of having unbeatable synergies, or combinations of talents that just don’t work together is really high. That’s not lazy design. That is recognizing how math works.

So given that we don’t think it’s humanly possible to have 40-50 fun, interesting and balanced talents in a tree, the alternative is to continue on with bloated trees that have a ton of inconsequential talents that you have to slog through to get to the fun stuff. A lot of you guys have stuck with us for years, continue to play regularly, and still love World of Warcraft. You are the reason we’re still making this game. We think you deserve better, and we think we can do better.

3. "We'll still have cookie-cutter builds with the new design."
I am slightly amused by the number of comments that say "The theorycrafters will just math out which is the right talent and we'll all just pick that one." But the theorycrafters aren’t agreeing with those comments, because they know they won’t be able to.

Just to make sure, I chose several specs at random and researched their builds. Sure enough, even with the Cataclysm builds today, you see quotes like “spend the last two points wherever you want” or “choose X or Y at your discretion.” It is “easy” (which I put in quotes because theorycrafters devote a lot of time and neurons to it) to determine the value of a DPS talent like Incite or Ignite. It is hard to determine the DPS value of Improved Sprint or Lichborne. Most of the Mists talents are things like the latter. Now there are still some pure throughput (damage, healing, or tanking) talents in the trees. We expect there will sometimes be a right answer as to which talent to take for those roles. On a fight like Baelroc (one boss, no adds), Bladestorm and Shockwave probably aren't competitive with Avatar. We're okay with that, because on Beth'tilac (lots of adds) they definitely can be and it will depend a lot on your play style and the role you have in the fight. However, given that we know a player can only have one of those three talents and that the synergistic effects from those talents with other talents are limited, it is much easier for us to balance say the healing value of Archangel and Divine Star. Despite what you read on the forums, we actually have gotten better at balancing World of Warcraft over the years.

4. "No rewards for leveling."
Once upon a time, you got a new talent point every level. That worked okay for a game with 60 levels. It works less well for a game with 90 levels. It probably is totally incomprehensible for a game with 150 levels, should we ever get there. We keep bumping the level cap because frankly it’s fun and we haven’t yet come up with a progression mechanism that will feel quite as good.

Leveling is pretty fast these days and fairly rewarding, in that you see lots of new content and get gear quickly, which is something we have trouble replicating at max level (though stay tuned for Mists of Pandaria). On top of that, you’ll still get lots of abilities as you level up. Instead of having to click Raging Blow, we’ll just give it to you, because frankly if you skip it, you’re making a mistake (or you’re RPing a Fury warrior who has taken too many blows to the head). There are gaps in getting new abilities, especially at high level, because we don’t want players to have to have four rows of action bars to play their character. Again, that is just the blessing and curse of having a game with so many levels.

Third, I’ll challenge the notion of just how interesting it is to get that second point in Pain and Suffering or Rule of Law while leveling. Do you really notice that you now kill a creature in 2.9 GCDs instead of 3 GCDs? (But see below for a bit more on this.) There are some game-challenging talents of course, like Shadowform, but as we just discussed, you'll still get those.

Finally, the reality is that for many players, WoW has become a game focused on max level. Back in the day, leveling a fleet of alts was really compelling gameplay, but for many of the old-timers, there just isn’t a ton of interest in making a second mage or whatever. Hopefully account-level achievements will help with that somewhat, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect all of our long-term players to have thirty or more characters at some point in the future. It’s a fair concern that the new talent system is geared more towards making max level exciting, but that’s also where players tend to spend most of their WoW-playing hours these days. We don’t know yet what we are going to do for players who want to play a monk but just can’t stomach the idea of hitting Hellfire Peninsula one more time, and how we solve the problem when you get a friend to try WoW, only to discover that your pal will need to spend several weeks or months getting up to max level before he or she is ready to join your Arena team or raid group. But these feel like problems we are going to have to solve at some point.

5. "I like being better than noobs."
It was surprising and a bit disappointing at how frequently we saw this argument. The players in question fully admit that they don't experiment to find the best build. They accept the cookie cutter spec that is offered from a website, but then they use the fact that they knew the cookie cutter to mock players who don't. Intimate knowledge of game mechanics certainly is and should be a component of skill. But knowing how to Google "4.3 Shadow spec" doesn't automatically make you a better player. Sorry, but I’m just going to dismiss this one as an illegitimate concern.

6. "The talents are all PvP choices."
We see this response from players who say “I don’t care about PvP,” or “raid bosses can’t be snared,” or even “I am a solo player, so I don’t need a defensive cooldown.”

First, a lot of players do care about PvP, and almost every choice in the new talent model will be interesting for them. We are also taking some steps with Mists to encourage more crossover between PvP and PvE as the game once had, so even if you don’t care for PvP now, maybe we can get you interested in the future.

Second, a lot of raid bosses can’t be snared, but their adds and trash sure can be. We don’t do a lot of Patchwerk fights these days. Crowd control, movement increases, and defensive cooldowns are all an important part of raid encounters these days. They are even a part of dungeon encounters until you overgear the content.

Now if you're a solo player or a fairly casual raider and you don't often find the need to use crowd control or hit a defensive cooldown, then maybe the choice isn't compelling. But we think that's a problem with the game. I think it’s a fair complaint that our outdoor world creatures have become a little monotonous over the years. Once upon a time, you could choose to take on that camp of gnolls, or you could try and handle the elite ogres, or you might get a patrolling kobold. While we don’t want outdoor leveling to be brutally difficult, that doesn’t mean that every situation needs to be solved with 3 Sinister Strikes. Imagine a cave full of weak spiders. You can choose to AE them all down, use a movement cooldown to get through the cave quickly, use a defensive cooldown to survive the damage, or use your heals to keep you up. When players use their full toolbox of abilities intelligently, they tend to feel good about their character and the game. But it is our responsibility to engineer more of those situations into the world.

7. "Spec doesn’t matter."
This is a concern especially for warriors, priests, DKs and the pure classes (those characters who have multiple specs of the same role). What we have concluded is that many players want to choose their spec based on flavor (“I want to be the mage who uses Frost magic”) or rotation (“I like the fast gameplay of the Frost DK”). While the raid buff / debuff matrix and spec utility helps to encourage diversity among groups and discourage raid stacking, it’s also a little lame when the Affliction lock is asked to spec Demonology (against the player’s desire) in order to bring a specific buff. In Mists, we want players to have even more flexibility about which character they want to play. Asking a player to swap from damage to tanking for a couple of fights is acceptable to us. Asking someone to respec from Unholy to Frost just for the debuff is not.

There will still be some utility in the various specs, but less than we have today. You should pick a spec because you like the rotation or the kit. Fire is about crit, Hot Streak, and Ignite. Frost is about Shatter combos and the Water Elemental. Arcane is about mana management and clearing Arcane Blast stacks.

8. “It must be new to be good.”
This is a tricky one. Specifically, the warlock and druid trees include a lot of new talent ideas simply because we felt like those classes needed them. While we want to make an effort to add some new mechanics every expansion just to keep things fresh, we don’t want to arbitrarily replace fun talents that have stood the test of time just in the name of change for change’s sake. Bladestorm is fun. Body and Soul is fun. Shadowstep is fun.

From a designer’s perspective, the half-life of a new spell or talent idea is fleetingly short. You know how when you buy a new car and drive it off the lot it immediately loses a huge chunk of its value? New game ideas are like that. Seeing something brand new is super exhilarating, but that thrill just doesn’t last. I suspect even by the time Mists launches, we will see a lot of comments along the lines of “When are druids going to get something new? We haven’t seen any new ideas since November!”

It isn’t our goal to come up with 18 new talents for every class. We want to come up with 18 fun talents, and that’s going to mean a mix of old and new. Try not to confuse “shiny” with “good,” and we’ll try on our end not to fall into that trap as well.

9. “You overhaul talents every expansion. Please leave well enough alone.”
This is another tricky issue, because neither extreme (stagnation versus constant design churn) is appealing, and every individual player (and designer!) has a different definition of where those extremes lie. We changed talent trees in Cataclysm to try and fix some of the underlying problems the talent design had since its inception. We actually considered going to the Mists model for Cataclysm, but we were worried that the change would be too shocking to players, so we went with a more restrained design first. As often happens with compromises, it didn’t fix the underlying problems. Our hope is that this new design solves them once and for all. That isn’t a promise to not change talents for 6.0, 7.0, and beyond. But we hope that an overhaul this drastic isn’t necessary again for a long time to come.
MMOs are inherently living designs that are going to change over time. This is particularly true of subscription models, where players rightly expect to see something for their monthly payment. We don’t think it’s fair to cling to designs that aren’t working just because that’s the design we shipped with. As we have discussed a great deal lately, we will try to limit our big design changes to new expansions, but it’s just not in our DNA to leave something at a B- level if we think we can make it A+.

10. “You’ve got your minds made up and don’t care about what we think.”
You’re wrong. Next!

As I have said a million times, good games (maybe good anything) can’t be designed by popular vote. Our design feedback process is about making informed decisions. The developers will make the decisions we feel are right for the game, but we’ll do that armed with the feedback from players about what is fun and not fun for them. If you want to provide the best feedback possible, try to be succinct (we get a lot of feedback), try to be specific (why don’t you like something), and don’t assume you speak for everyone (game design, like art, is often subjective). Don’t get upset if we don’t implement your idea -- that’s just not a realistic expectation. Don’t confuse the echo chamber phenomenon that can occur in forum discussions for consensus. Most importantly, try to remember what will be fun for everyone, and not just your character.

One more thing to keep in mind: Playing with the new talent system in-game is really different from choosing talents on “paper.” Some of the decisions we made didn’t come about until we could get into the game and see how leveling and playing actually felt. Once we’re in alpha, many of you guys will be able to give us some more concrete feedback. We understand that, and we’re pushing for doing that just as soon as we can. In the meantime, enjoy the Hour of Twilight.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Seeing the Forest for the Talent Trees started by chaud View original post
Comments 285 Comments
  1. horix's Avatar
    Ugh.. have been playing since 2005, only have 2 alerts, and could not stomach leveling another.. it took me 5 years to get my first alt.....

    I enjoy the end game content, leveling was fun the first time around. Why not add another "Bind on account" item. 10k valor points = skip 10 levels on one of your other alts. ?

    Instead of people selling the BOE valor items, it gives them something to do... invest in an alt at half the play time!



    Quote Originally Posted by Gilian View Post
    I have made pretty good arguments and then you come with some stupid analogy or whatever. Like a kick to the nuts is the same as choosing a talent.

    It's not all about competing at end game content. But at least now you don't have to press some buttons that feel like getting kicked in the nuts and you don't have to think about them either you just press 6 random buttons and you end up with exactly the same as when you would 'choose'.
    The choices don't depend on what you want to accomplish. In tier 4 you get three choices that all result in the same DPS increase and have no other impact on a boss fight. Tier 3 you can choose from three healing talents that will all result in the same HPS increase and won't bring anything to a boss fight because there are 24 or 9 other classes that already bring talents and skills that will do the job. And have fun choosing from three different snares you are never going to use in PvE since in a raid you already have 100 snare possibilities.

    The thing that previous talent trees provided was that you had to figure it out yourself which is fun. Maybe thinking is not fun for you so then MoP talents are obviously much better.

    ---------- Post added 2011-12-11 at 11:32 AM ----------



    That's why they are losing subs? Because they are always right and people on a forum don't know shit.

    ---------- Post added 2011-12-11 at 11:44 AM ----------



    When you are a new player do you want 3 choices every 15 levels or do you want 15 choices every level? Do you want the cookie cutter build right away or do you want to figure it out yourself? New players don't think: "I need the best build for end game content right now".

    And what all the experienced players get now is the cookie cutter build they already had but now without pressing buttons. Yay!

    All that Blizzard wants is to make the game easier and more accessible because THEY think that's the way to go since half TBC and they went crazy since WotLK. Now they are losing subs but I guess that's because "the lore sucks" or whatever reason. But it's probably because the game becomes boring real fast because everything is handed to you like you are retarded and can't figure things out yourself.
  1. Selenity's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by k1037 View Post
    The "too hard" / "too easy" folks are hardly the only people who are unhappy with the announced talents. I wish fans would stop using the "tired of the game" line. No, people are absolutely NOT leaving just because they're tired of the game. They're leaving because the quality has gone down the toilet. The drop was immediate and dramatic with the release of Cata in the US and Europe, while WotLK kept subs growing in China. Cata was released in China half a year later and met with the exact same dramatic drop in subs. The sub loss is clearly, identifiably, objectively (as in, it's not "opinion") due to Blizzard's own design choices.

    I participated in the Cata beta. Hundreds of us voiced opinions which were contrary to their design decisions. We said healing wasn't nearly as fun, that Holy Power wasn't well-thought or well-implemented, that leveling was far too quick, that dungeons were far too slow, that Tol Barad was a disaster... basically every complaint that was voiced on live. GC responded that we "weren't being helpful" and STOPPED POSTING on the Beta forums. Now we're seeing the exact same thing with MoP design choices, even before beta. They are coming up with a talent system that a lot of people are unhappy with. Instead of dealing with this vocal not-a-minority, he's doing the same "you're wrong - la la la, I can't hear you" thing he did during the Cata beta. It'll have the same result: another few million subs lost.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Last DJ View Post
    I was in the Cata beta, and the Wrath beta as well. They were night and day compared to one another. It seemed like the Wrath beta was much more slow to invite masses of players, instead sampling from a smaller group who were there to actually play test, and not treat it like a free preview. The blues were helpful and the players constructive, and the DK forums were simply awash with input, most of which was responded to in some way or tested out. (Believe it or not, my husband was one of the Unholy DKs who started suggesting that Unholy, as a master of ghouls, get a permanent ghoul for themselves.) Me, I spent half my time in the DK forums (where I laugh about just how broken beta Blood DKs were - you think their self-healing now was absurd? Unlimited number of bloodworms spawning on AUTO ATTACKS mwahahaha) and staring glumly at the shaman forums, where all the enhancement players were wringing their hair and screaming about how DKs were going to be benching enh shamans everywhere.

    No matter what the goddamn expansion, the sky is always falling for shamans. Christ.

    Anyway. The Wrath beta was fun, and enjoyable, and minus that little Ret with the GOD SWITCH flipped on snafu, an overall success. Then came Cata. Suddenly their subs had ballooned to 12 million, Wrath was a rousing success ... aaaaaaaaand it all went straight to their heads. The Cata beta was shit. Utter shit. They started mass-inviting before things were even ready for a beta release, and most of these people weren't interested in submitting bugs or offering critique. They were there to get a free preview. The blues, especially Ghostcrawler, were very condescending and smug in a very "my shit don't stink a'cause I got 12 million subscribers whaaaaaaaat?" fashion. If suggestions weren't worded with 95% ass-kissing and hand-holding, GC or another blue would flop out the big blue Blizzard e-peen and start threatening to revoke the poster's beta status for "trolling" and "being unhelpful". What happened when Cata was released? Subs took a nosedive. Not surprising, given that they didn't listen to any of the suggestions - and how could they, when they started inviting hundreds of players hand over fist when the game was a week out of beta from the alpha. Half of the posts on the forums were complaints about bugs - not bug reports, actual complaints, and the other half were WHAT SHOULD THE WORGEN DANCE BE?

    Given that they're handing out MoP keys to everyone with one of those goddamn obnoxious Tyrael's Chargers, I suspect the MoP beta will be no different, unless they sorely learned their lesson about being arrogant pillocks when it comes to the testing phase of their game.
    Quoting both of these as a reality check, because that's exactly what happened.

    I know no one here would know me or have reason to believe me, but I am not someone to say that a person should be removed from his job. However, GC has shown repeatedly that he is very tunnel-visioned when it comes to handling WoW. He comes across as a hardcore, endgame, elitist PvP-er, and every decision he makes seems to revolve around that type of player. Honestly, his whole attitude sounds like a 16 year old... "I know what you want, and you will like it." >,>

    It's this attitude that I myself react to (not speaking for anyone else), and why I have a hard time taking this blog seriously. GC acted like a complete jerk during Cata beta. Now there is backlash, and he's trying to act less like a jerk. But there is no change, just a meaningless attempt at PR. I really don't think most people would care what his attitude is in of itself, as long as the results are a game people want to play. He's not making a game (certain) people want to play, and therefore they are leaving. His attitude is hindering because he can't seem to see outside of his own narrow vision of what makes/made wow fun.

    I have no doubt that many people just play endgame, nor any doubt that many just want to skip to the end of leveling. But to discount that there might be a large group who enjoy the leveling process is just the sort of tunnel-vision I refer to. GC seems incapable of the multi-faceted thinking that is needed to head a game like wow, and that is why I think he should be removed.

    But in all honesty, I think it's too late for WoW. Without MoP being a smash hit, which looks doubtful, it won't regain back to 12 mil subs, and will slowly keep bleeding. In general, people won't come back from the new, shinier mmos to play an old one. I'm not saying that to be a "doomsdayer", nor am I saying WoW will die completely, I just believe that is what will happen. To all WoW players who said "Go play another game," be careful what you wish for. (I did btw)
  1. ComputerNerd's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zn View Post
    I can think of quite a few examples. Warlocks in vanilla and TBC had several meaningful choices, they could choose to go full affliction, full demo, full destro or a mixture of affliction/demo or affliction/destro (not sure if there was a demo/destro combination, but I think there was at one time or another, never tried).

    Druid healers in TBC could go tree or dreamstate.

    Ferals could go full bear, full cat or a decent compromise for an off-tank role. Fury warriors could throw on a shield and off-tank. Healing Priests could also choose a mix of disc and holy talents that suited their playstyle and the current content they're playing. And don't forget PvP/PvE hybrid specs.

    Yes there have always been "ej-recommended" specs for each role. But so what? You didn't HAVE to follow those suggestions. Want to play a big-dotting afflock with extra health pool for drain tanking? No problem, put a few points into demo to get the extra health. You have to sacrifice some damage but it could come in handy... ("Hello Curator").

    With Wrath, they dissolved those choices and each spec was made cookie-cutter. With MoP, they're going even farther. My main gripe is that sure, while these optional non-cookie-cutter builds may have been suboptimal in the very top tier of raiding, at least at that time there WERE tiers of raiding (during which some of them were competitive with the cookie-cutter specs). You had to get a certain level of gear before you could progress to the next tier, and it took a lot of time to get to that final tier. Now, they just hand you a tier and that's the tier you play. Not enough gear for the current tier? No problem, 2 weeks of farming badges/justice/valor points/pvp points/etc. and it's yours.

    So the issue is really a combination of less choice in customization and less tiers of raiding. If we have only 1 tier of raiding, then true, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have custom builds. But if there are multiple tiers, then more options during the progression towards that final min-max tier make the game more dynamic. And more fun.

    Please don't cop out and say "we have 3 tiers of raiding now, LFR, normal and heroic." That's just ridiculous.
    And yet you can have those same choices now for the most part, and now just like then you can make good and bad choices.
    The good choices being rather limited if not fixed so leaving little real choice if you don't intend to really hurt your ability to do your job.

    The current trees if you are lucky will have maybe half a dozen points which are truly optional choices, exactly what the MoP talents are striving to do.
    Questionable certainly how viable or not some of those choices are, but is it really that different to what we have now ?
    No, because in order to get to that same state in the current game we have to realistically follow the same route, the same talents.
  1. MrHappy's Avatar
    few choices = you pick what UTILITY you get vs SKILL BOOSTING TALENTS its a brilliant design and francly a much needed one....it gives people choices of what MORE they want there toons to do vs picking obvious dps choices
  1. Valedus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by gnlogic View Post
    few choices = you pick what UTILITY you get vs SKILL BOOSTING TALENTS its a brilliant design and francly a much needed one....it gives people choices of what MORE they want there toons to do vs picking obvious dps choices
    Exactly. How is the idea of resto druids with typhoon and other examples like that not interesting to people? My favorite thing that has been pointed out (yes, I realize this is a PvP situation) is stepping into the Arena and not AUTOMATICALLY knowing the entire enemy teams toolbox. Combat will be much more dynamic, look at some of the priest choices for example. I'm personally very excited.

    And in PvE, a lot of the talents are still difficult choices. Really, Blizzard has stated that YES you COULD choose other, "hybrid" specs like drain tanking, but why not have a tank for that position and have the warlock do his job of dps? And whose to say with some of the new talents, like "Harvest Life" or w/e, that Locks won't be able to do that? Let's be honest, nobody knows for sure.

Site Navigation